Jonathan Glazer won the Grand Prix at this year’s Cannes for this horror about Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss and his wife, who quite literally live amongst the ashes of their actions.
The Zone of Interest
Master of portraiture Jonathan Glazer (Under the Skin, TIFF ’13) was awarded the Grand Prix at this year’s Cannes Film Festival for The Zone of Interest, adapted from a 2014 novel of the same title by Martin Amis. The film centres on the domestic life of Hedwig (Sandra Hüller, also at the Festival in Anatomy of a Fall) and Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel), beneficiaries of lebensraum, whose family home — nestled between train tracks and gas chambers — is spitting distance from Auschwitz, the infamous German concentration camp located in occupied Poland, where Rudolf serves as commandant.
Towards the final days of the Holocaust, Hedwig is fixated on self-preservation, while Rudolf is increasingly burdened by his duties. We reside inside the family’s encampment, with background voices of ghost-like prisoners muffled by the perpetrator’s quotidian musings. At one point, Hedwig and her atrocious friends joke about their new luxury goods, received from Canada — the nickname of the storage facilities where such items, after being confiscated, were stored — at the demise of their former neighbours.
Shot on location, The Zone of Interest weds banal and overt acts of evil with unforgettable reminders of resistance (it was shot in monochrome by thermal-imaging cameras). And just as we can't take any more, the film gives a crushing nod to Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing (TIFF ’12). Hauntingly scored by Mica Levi and shot by Łukasz Żal (Cold War, TIFF ’18), this film will stay with you for a lifetime, for better or for worse.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival
Content advisory: mature themes